After 53 years, the visionary Land & Water Conservation Fund Act (LWCF) will end on September 30, 2018 unless the U.S. Congress takes action to reauthorize the program. LWCF is the only federal grant program that is directed to state and local governments to acquire land and develop or renovate parks, trails, and other outdoor recreation facilities. Funds are provided through the National Park Service, but the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program is administered by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Outdoor Recreation.
In Indiana, the federal LWCF State and Local Assistance Program has provided more than $50 million, matched by $50 million from the state and local communities since 1965, to protect 30,000 acres of land and develop close-to-home parks and outdoor recreation facilities in every Indiana county. Indiana state parks such as Pokagon, Indiana Dunes, McCormick's Creek, Potato Creek, and others have benefitted from the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program. Many regional, community, and neighborhood parks are serving people of all ages and abilities today thanks to a LWCF State and Local Assistance grant. From the City of Indianapolis Parks and Recreation's 5,600 acre Eagle Creek Park to the Town of Ferdinand Parks Department's 18th Street Park in Dubois County, LWCF State and Local Assistance grants have developed outstanding parks and outdoor recreation opportunities for Hoosiers.
- The LWCF State and Local Assistance Program has received appropriations from Congress at an average of 14% of total LWCF funding for the past decade, resulting in anemic funding for state and local parks and outdoor recreation facilities. The original intent of the LWCF Act of 1965 was to balance allocations for federal land acquisition with the State and Local Assistance Grant Program.
- Support the permanent reauthorization of the LWCF, including full and dedicated funding at $900 million a year.
- Protect the interests of state and local communities by providing fair and equitable treatment for the State and Local Assistance Program at no less than 40% of the total LWCF annual appropriation to formulate grants for state and local parks and outdoor recreation facilities. This is the same percentage required by current law to be allocated to the federal land acquisition program. The impact of the 40% guarantees that the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program is significant. In 2016, Indiana was allocated $1.8 million but would have received $3.5 million if the 40% provision was in the law.
- As a program of the LWCF, authorize the “Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership” (ORLP) competitive grant initiative and provide appropriations to support parks and recreation agencies serving populations of 50,000+.
This may be the last chance to ensure that the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program is available to provide access to quality parks and outdoor recreation facilities for Indiana's citizens. Indiana parks and recreation advocates must reach out to their U.S. Senators and U.S. Representatives to support full, permanent, and equitable funding for the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program.
Submitted by Mark Young - NRPA Public Policy Committee